While all eyes in Florida politics are on a special Republican primary election for an open House seat in the Panhandle on Tuesday, another prominent Republican from the area took a big step toward advancing his own political ambitions Monday.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, made his bid official for the Florida Senate seat held by his father, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Destin, by filing his paperwork to run in 2016. Matt Gaetz has made no secret of his plans to run for the Senate seat and has already taken aim at Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, who entered the race at the start of December.
While Gaetz should prove a formidable candidate, he does have some catching up to do in the fundraising chase. Patronis hauled in more than $90,000 in the first quarter of 2013, while Gaetz brought in around $28,000 during the same period for his 2014 House re-election campaign.
Gaetz shows no sign of giving up his House seat and is expected to run for a fourth and final term in 2014. The seat is heavily Republican and Gaetz is not expected to encounter much opposition. He had no opponents in the 2012 general election. Patronis is term-limited in 2014.
In the meantime, Gaetz continues to launch attacks on Patronis over social media on a variety of fronts. Gaetz, one of the most prolific members of the Florida Legislature in the use of social media, has been attacking Patronis in recent weeks for supporting the use of state dollars for the Miami Dolphins stadium.
Will the Miami Dolphins get a taxpayer funded stadium deal?" Gaetz asked on Twitter earlier this month. Northwest Floridas JimmyPatronis sure facilitated a floor vote." Gaetz then added a hashtag to define his opponent -- #jimmytheliberal.
The stakes are high in the Republican primary. The seat that Don Gaetz currently occupies ranks as one of the most Republican Senate districts in Florida. Rick Scott took 55 percent of this Panhandle district in 2010 while Democrat Alex Sink took less than 40 percent. Whoever wins the Republican primary should go on to win the Senate seat. In 2012, Democrats did not field a candidate, leaving Richard Harrison, who was running with no party affiliation, a clear shot at Don Gaetz. The Republican won the race with 74.4 percent of the vote.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News.